Why I have chosen to be ‘spiritual-plus’

| Father Paul Jarvis - For The Catholic Spirit | September 13, 2010 | 2 Comments

Father Paul Jarvis

“I don’t need organized religion.”

I hear that now and again. Or, “I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.”

Sometimes the individual will add that he or she doesn’t see the need of going to church: “I can be spiritual all on my own.”

It’s hard to argue against being spiritual. But in our increasingly isolated society — where individuals largely communicate with others through electronic devices and spend more time with video images of people than with flesh-and-blood people — I do wonder what sort of spirit the individual is receiving and celebrating and letting direct his or her life.

The spirit of self-orientation? The spirit of self-seeking?

When I was a kid back in the 1960s, I played Freeze Tag and Kick the Can with neighborhood kids. Today, I have to explain to younger folks that these are not video games or cell phone apps.

Many of us go to work alone. We work in cubicles alone. When we get home, we surf the Internet alone. We watch movies alone. Decked out with iPods, we work out on treadmills alone. We find virtual friends on chatlines.

We even read books on personal success or personal enlightenment — all by and for oneself.

Many wonder why they’re spiritual, successful or independent and yet unfulfilled — even lonely.

I never try to guilt these individuals into going to church, of course. Nor do I try to best them in an argument. I simply explain that, for me and many others, it’s all about being church. And when they say “organized religion,” perhaps they reject spirituality within a community. With others.

In my mind, simply going to church is never enough. It’s possible to drag a kid to, or shame a spouse into going to, church. But if not engaged with others, they remain simply surrounded by hundreds of strangers.

Loving loneliness?

We’ve morphed into a society in which we tend to avoid that which gives us greatest fulfillment in life.

We’re just too used to being alone. Doing things on our own terms. Minimizing inconvenience. Maximizing pleasure. Avoiding the messiness of a life as “we.”

And then we wonder why we feel something is missing!

I choose to be “spiritual-plus.” That is, spiritual plus community. Spiritual plus communion with God — and his children.

“Relationship-ing” — and the community that it both comes from and creates — is the essence of Christ’s wisdom and way. Love, care and attend to God, others and yourself.

It’s hard to live such loving spirituality divorced from a community. When attempted, such love is reduced to mere sentiment. Or an abstract idea.

Gathering as community

That’s why we Catholic Christians come together at Guardian Angels in Chaska and other parishes — not only on Sunday, but in all sorts of ways throughout the week: At AngelFest this Sept. 25, for example. At our school’s rake-a-thon this fall. In Loaves and Fishes ministry. In parishioners’ prison ministry visits. In leading visitors on tours of our 1868 friary. In Guardian Angels’ famous beef and sausage dinner. In volunteer-tutoring at our school.

It’s frankly why we created a new Sunday evening Mass at 6:15 p.m. — the 6.1.5 Mass — as a refuge for those tired of being “spiritual” all by themselves.

It’s not just about going to church on Sundays. It’s also about being church the rest of the week.

I know we’re not alone as a parish in believing this. Our sister parishes in the southwest metro area are also refuges for “spirituality-plus.”

If you know of someone trapped in a world of one, invite them into a much larger world. A larger spirituality. Invite them into your church and its ministries.

Father Paul Jarvis is pastor of Guardian Angels in Chaska.


Category: This Catholic Life